After months of revising costs and settling on a design for the June 2014 reconstruction of Robert Street through West St. Paul, the city must now find out if residents and businesses in three locations along the road want noise walls.
Noise walls are built to shield homes and businesses from the roar of traffic noise. They are common on freeways, not on four-lane commercial streets like Robert.
But West St. Paul will receive a federal grant to help pay for the $16 million Robert Street reconstruction, and with the money comes the requirement for a noise analysis along the route.
The analysis found three locations where noise walls are warranted under federal criteria. They will be built unless 51 percent of the affected property owners decline them.
At all three locations, the wall would provide homes and businesses behind it at least a 5 decibel reduction in traffic noise.
If all three 20-foot-high wood-and-concrete barriers were built, it would add $760,000 to the cost of the project — an extra expense the city would like to avoid.
Now it's up to the 24 affected property owners.
In early April, the city will mail notices of a public information meeting on the noise walls. The night of the meeting, property owners will be invited to cast individual votes on whether they want the wall, but votes also will be accepted for 30 days after the meeting.
If the meeting is sparsely attended, the consultants will go door to door to get a tally.
Two of the noise wall locations are on the west side of Robert and one is on the east side.
The east side wall is proposed from Carol Lane to Marie Avenue in front of 13 houses close to the street. It would cost $408,000.
A second stretch of wall has been proposed in front of six properties on the west side of Robert from Butler Avenue to Arion Street. This wall would cost $240,000.
The third wall is proposed for the west side of the street in front of five properties from Arion Street to Bernard Street at a cost of $112,000.
City Council Member David Wright suggested that SFR, the consulting firm hired to handle the noise wall issue, show residents a sketch of how a 20-foot tall wall would look in front of houses and businesses.
He said residents will want information on how the walls would affect sunlight, how it would affect their property values and who would maintain the wall and cut grass around it.
People will want details, Wright said. "You can't just go in there and say we are putting up a 20 foot noise wall in front of your house. Do you want one?"